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March 30, 2017

How strong is support for Macron, really?

Manuel Valls confirmed he will vote for Emmanuel Macron. Does this accelerate the demise of the Socialist party? Valls certainly confirmed with his choice what he always said as prime minister, that there are two irreconcilable camps inside the Socialist party.  So, the two sides now cross swords over who betrayed whom: Benoît Hamon when he rebelled against Valls' reform course as prime minister, or Valls who refuses to endorse the candidate coming out of the party primaries.

Valls' support is not without risks for Macron. Renewal looks different to this. There is history between the two men, too. And no-one in France believes that Valls is simply submitting to a junior minister he had so much trouble with during his own time as prime minister. So, is everyone looking at the legislative elections already? How does Macron's En Marche! movement counterbalance this influx from the left? So far there are more dissidents from the left than from the right on Macron’s supporters' list. And this looks unlikely to change. It might change after moment he qualifies for the second round.

Some MPs already have a budget from their party to start campaigning for the after the presidential elections, writes the Journal du Dimanche. This is an advantage, but it does not mean that Macron and his movement would have no chances in the legislative elections. The MEP Jean-Marie Cavada told the JDD that the voters will give their president a majority, like they did for François Mitterrand in 1981. (The difference is that Mitterrand had an established party behind him, not something that calls itself a movement).

Another uncertainty is linked to the presidential election itself. Emmanuel Macron might be leading the polls together with Marine Le Pen, but his electorate is much less certain than those supporting François Fillon or Le Pen. According to the Ipsos poll, Le Pen and Macron would qualify for the second round with 25% and 24%, ahead of Francois Fillon with 18%. But it is also instructive to look at how solid their support is. Among those who want to vote for Macron, 47% say that they could still change their mind. This is well above the 16% and 18% for Fillon and Le Pen respectively. For the candidates on the left, Jean-Luc Mélenchon is coming fourth with 14% but 40% of those are not sure yet whether they will stick to him. For Benoît Hamon the outcome is worse: he is trailing in the polls with 12%, and of those 52% of are not certain of their choice yet.

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March 30, 2017

Last meeting of a grand coalition

The leaders of the German grand coalition met yesterday for a final round of talks about what to do until the elections. Martin Schulz did finally attend, having declined the invitation previously. They managed to agree on a few projects - which is astonishing in itself given the elections ahead. They failed to reach agreement on a few subjects dear to the SPD: a ceiling of management salaries, and a minimum pension. Nor did they agree on establishing the right to automatic return to full-time work for employees who decide to go part-time.

But there was agreement on an increase in the minimum prison sentence for burglary to one year, and on making it illegal for under-18s to marry. They also agreed to cut child allowance for EU citizens living in Germany (but not for German citizens). This is particularly interesting since the failure to cut in-work benefits constituted one of the overt triggers of Brexit. And we are not sure how discriminating on citizenship - not residence - squares with EU law.

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March 30, 2017

The unspectacular departure of an MP

Francesc Homs, leader of the Spanish parliament faction of PDeCat, the right-liberal party leading the Catalan separatist regional government, was yesterday removed from his seat as a result of his recent conviction by the supreme court for disobedience of a Constitutional court injunction. Homs had been tried in the organisation of a mock independence referendum in November 2014 for his role as legal counsel to the previous Catalan regional administration. The Spanish constitutional court had previously issued an injunction stopping the planned vote, but Homs advised the regional government it was not illegal to go ahead all the same. Still, the regional government handed over responsibility for organising the mock referendum to grass-roots organisations. The use of official polling places (schools and the like) gave the impression that the Catalan regional government was still behind the vote, which was marred by low participation by non-separatists.

Homs was tried by the Supreme curt on account of his condition as a national MP. The parliament had previously had to vote to authorise his prosecution, which Podemos and allies, and the Basque and Catalan nationalists, voted against. The leader of the Basque nationalist party's group in the Spanish parliament, Aitor Esteban, stood by Homs yesterday saying that the parliament should never have authorised the prosecution to go ahead.

The reaction in Catalonia has been muted, though this event will be used in the future by the Catalan independence movement to argue that Spain is a country that prosecutes political representatives for their political opinions, as Homs put it. The Supreme court's decision is likely to be tested before the European Court of Human Rights.

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